On the heels of a 12-game winning streak, the Boston Celtics have dropped a pair of home games in the last six days to Western Conference powers.
Without their best player, the New Orleans Hornets probably don’t fit that description.
The Celtics will try to get back on track Wednesday as they play the first of six straight road games, facing a struggling New Orleans club that may again be missing star point guard Chris Paul.
After Boston’s 19-game winning streak was snapped by the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day, the club’s 12-game run met a similar end on Thursday as the Celtics (42-11) lost 110-109 in overtime.
The defending champions won at New York the next day, but slipped again in Sunday’s matinee, losing 105-99 to San Antonio and dropping back-to-back home games for the first time this season.
After facing each of the last two West champions in their last three games, the Celtics’ upcoming schedule doesn’t get much easier. They’ll bring a seven-game road winning streak into their six-game trip, but the first five games are against West teams with winning records.
The trip is interrupted by this weekend’s All-Star break.
“We’ve got a tough task in front of us, going on the road for the next couple of weeks, and we’ve got to make up some ground,” Boston’s Paul Pierce said. “We have our work cut out for us. This is a big road trip for us.”
Kevin Garnett had 26 points and 12 rebounds against the Spurs and Rajon Rondo added 16 assists, but Boston allowed a third straight opponent to reach 100 points for the first time since last Feb. 13-20.
If the Hornets reach triple digits, it would be the first time four consecutive opponents have done it against the Celtics since they acquired Garnett.
But New Orleans (30-19) has been banged-up and stumbling lately, losing five of seven and playing the last four without Paul, perhaps the league’s premier point guard.
Paul, averaging 21.5 points and 10.9 assists, is dealing with a strained groin, and center Tyson Chandler has missed the last 11 games with an ankle injury.
“It would be nice to have all our guys back,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “I’m looking forward to having those guys back as soon as possible, but I’m not going to jeopardize them for one game. If they’re healthy and ready to go, then they’ll play.”
At the very least, All-Star forward David West will return Wednesday after being suspended for Monday’s 85-80 loss at Memphis due to a flagrant foul.
His absence meant New Orleans was without its top two scorers and its top three rebounders against the Grizzlies, and it showed as Memphis outrebounded the Hornets 64-38.
“We did a terrible job on the defensive boards, and they just killed us,” Scott said. “It’s not the first time we have addressed this. We have to get tougher, that’s the bottom line.”
New Orleans had even struggled before Paul’s injury, losing its last three games with both Paul and West in the lineup.
The home team has won all three games between New Orleans and Boston over the past two seasons, including the Celtics’ 94-82 win on Dec. 12. Behind 37 points from West, the Hornets won 113-106 at New Orleans Arena on March 22.